Food Vouchers Boost Nutrition And Markets In Somalia

A woman in Burao, northwestern Somalia, uses her WFP food voucher to buy goat meat from a local trader. Copyright: WFP/Challiss McDonough

Families in the Somilaland region of northern Somalia are enjoying a more balanced diet thanks to food vouchers which they can use to shop for goods like camel and goat meat at the local market. By allowing them to buy directly from local traders, the project is also a boost for the region's economy.

NAIROBI – Thousands of people in Somaliland are getting more fresh meat in their diet as a result of an innovative project that provides parents with vouchers to help them afford nutritious food from local traders.

Under the programme people receive US $80 of vouchers each month, and can use them to buy a variety of food including rice, cooking oil and fresh camel and goat meat. So far, around 15,000 people in north-western Somaliland are being given the vouchers as an alternative to food rations, and WFP plans to expand the initiative to other areas later this year.

Going shopping

The food voucher scheme in Somaliland gives family greater choice about what to eat.

Greater choice

“Using vouchers gives people greater choice about what food to eat, and gives WFP a powerful new tool for providing food assistance to the most vulnerable,” said Stefano Porretti, WFP’s Country Director for Somalia.

“At the same time, vouchers help the local economy by supporting local small and medium-scale producers and retailers.”The first phase of the voucher project is linked to WFP’s nutrition programme for young children in Burao, Somaliland.

In the past, the family of each child being treated for moderate malnutrition received a monthly ration of food from WFP, but now WFP has switched to providing a set of vouchers that families can use to buy food from local retailers.

WFP is partnering with the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) to distribute the vouchers, in coordination with Medair, a non-governmental organisation which manages the nutrition programme in Burao.

In the first phase of the voucher project, there are 13 local traders registered to accept the vouchers, including those who sell fresh camel and goat meat, which are staples of the diet for most people in the largely pastoralist region and can play a vital role in improving nutritional status.

Extremely popular

The initiative has proven extremely popular. After the vouchers were introduced, there was an increase in the number of people bringing their children in for nutrition screening. This means undernourished children will be more likely to get the treatment they need to develop healthy minds and bodies.

Eventually, WFP plans to expand the voucher approach to relief, recovery and resilience activities throughout the country where market conditions allow.

The new tool gives WFP additional flexibility in assisting vulnerable Somalis. WFP will distribute vouchers seasonally, during harvest periods when food is available in markets, while at other times of the year WFP will continue providing direct food rations during the lean seasons when supplies are scarcer.

WFP has reached about 1.5 million people with assistance in those areas of Somalia to which we have access since the start of the food crisis last year. Long-awaited

Story and photos by Challiss McDonough and Susannah Nicol